CD Group, an Italian IT solution developer based near Milan, already had an active SAP R/3 practice in place before it began selling SAP Business One solutions in November 2003. By the end of the year, it had gained 12 SAP Business One clients and received an award as best sales partner for SAP Business One solutions in Italy.
When the company decided last year that it was important to start targeting the SMB market, it needed to find a suitable solution. After being approached by SAP, according to Giacomo Coppi, the firm’s sales and marketing director, CD Group did not bother examining other vendors’ products, “since SAP is the leader, and we only want to be a partner with the leader. SAP sticks to software as Ferrari sticks to cars. And we are very proud to be part of the Ferrari of software vendors.”
A market leader as partner assures continued investments in both market development and product development, he explains, as well as international support. Internally, “our employees feel comfortable working for a leading vendor; it gives them a sense of security. It also gives them the chance to increase their skills.”
Northern Italy, Coppi notes, has a large SMB market, and it is important to have a firm understanding of the realities and challenges faced by SMB clients. SAP, he says, helps the group develop this understanding and provides support in marketing and sales, including the development of effective joint business plans for 2003 and 2004.
Furthermore, he stresses, SAP has the capability to make substantial investments in the SMB market and to develop appropriate support. And since CD Group was already experienced in SAP R/3 consulting and integration services, the company has been able to improve its competitive position by gaining the reputation in the SMB market as a total solution provider.
Investing in vertical solutions
CD Group has invested in developing its own solutions for SAP Business One, such as a vertical solution for service providers, which it uses internally and plans to sell commercially. The firm is also looking at opportunities in the manufacturing space. It takes approximately 100 days to develop a vertical solution, says Coppi, including analysis, development, and testing. CD Group keeps in touch with other partners to stay up on the functionality being developed, and Coppi stresses that SAP should facilitate this partner interaction.
One particularly successful implementation took place at Gruppo Mauro Saviola, one of the largest industrial groups in Italy with international operations. The project started at one pilot shop and is currently being expanded across Europe, with plans to implement SAP Business One in most of Saviola’s furniture shops.
SAP Business One’s built-in international functionality is one major reason for the project’s success, explains Coppi. Another is that the shops can use the system almost immediately, so implementation times are short – which in turn lowers project costs and minimizes the transition period from the old system. SAP Business One integrates with both Saviola’s point-of-sale system and central ERP system, greatly increasing efficiency and the flow of information within the company. The client also reports that it is easy to use.
The partnership with SAP brought a substantial boost to the group’s profits at the end of 2003: Coppi notes that the target was to sell 15 solutions before July 2004, so CD Group is well ahead of the curve. The group’s overall goal is to remain the leader for SAP Business One solutions in the Italian SMB market. The company is also focusing on more internationally oriented customers, so the SAP partnership is of strategic importance as well.
“SAP has a very experienced support team,” says Coppi. “SAP Italy has high-quality people; they have been very supportive.” Sales and marketing are key elements for the company’s future growth, areas in which SAP Italy provided excellent support, he explains. The company’s attendance at last year’s SAP Forum – a major marketing vehicle for SAP in Italy and a great opportunity to talk to new prospects – greatly helped the company sell its initial 12 SAP Business One solutions.
He also expects the “snowball” effect to further increase market presence: The company sold a SAP Business One solution to a customer in the tourist environment, then word of mouth of this successful implementation attracted others in the same industry.
The CD Group’s competitive position has been getting stronger since the partnership, he says, but the competition will become tougher as well, since there is a great deal of competition in Italy in the ERP and SMB arenas, and they, too, will undoubtedly jump on the SAP Business One opportunity.